Putting product information and a transactional facility in your
customer’s pocket is one thing - getting them to use it is another.
Marketers hoping to sell to customers via the Nokia Communicator (Cool
Toy, October) or personal digital assistants (PDAs) plugged into mobile
phones, should reflect on how convenient such gadgets are to carry and
use. How many of your customers carry their PDA and their mobile all the
time? And will the Nokia’s price tag, and bulk, make it only suitable for
reaching a small demographic of high-earners or gadget freaks?
Barclays Bank and Cellnet think they have eliminated such questions, with
their co-branded mobile phone. First launched in 1995 simply as a cheap
way for Barclaycard customers to go mobile, the service is being gradually
expanded to include banking services, and ultimately will offer ”travel,
ticketing and information services”.
Of the 2.4 million Cellnet clients in the UK, 150,000 use the
Barclays-branded unit. They have additional incentive to annoy people on
trains or in the street with their loud conversation and wild
gesticulating as the Barclays phone comes with a 20-per cent discount on
the normal Cellnet call charges.
Technologically, the service is no ground-breaker, but integrating online
information, banking services and instant transaction facilities is key -
even if it is a little slow in coming.
Current users are limited to accessing account or credit-card information,
and receiving the equivalent of a mini-statement displayed on the unit’s
screen. Facilities for paying bills and moving funds between accounts are
still being trialled.
A traffic update service is due to be launched by the end of this year,
and ’lifestyle services’ ranging from football scores to share updates are
mooted for early 1998. Cellnet is itself already offering such services,
albeit with the necessary aid of a web site, as part of its new ’Genie’
service (Revolution, October).
The elegance of the system is that it relies on a technology already
familiar to consumers - a mobile handset - which was, according to
Barclays, described by 97 per cent of customers as ”easy to use”. The
screen is icon-based, and a joystick-style button makes navigation
Barclays says it is also closely following a new Visa Cash trial in Leeds,
to see if it can incorporate wireless e-cash downloads into the
Customers will see their funds moving in circles as they pay off their
credit card, download some cash and then have their call charges billed
direct to their Barclaycard account. Fortunately for anyone selling the
products that will be bought via this phone, the circle isn’t perfect -
money still has to leak out somewhere.
Product: Barclaycard-Cellnet phone
Available: through Barclays
Handset price: œ29.90.